Film / Striking Distance

"Loyalty above all else, except honor."
Lt. Vincent Hardy

Tom Hardy (Bruce Willis) is a 5th generation Pittsburgh cop investigating a serial killer, when he is demoted to river patrol for suggesting that the serial killer is another cop. Released and set in 1993.

Tropes in this film:

  • A-Team Firing: A large group of police officers take aim at a car and shoot it up from both sides. None of them hit the suspect nor any parts which would impair the car's movement.
  • Adult Fear: Paula's abduction. From the moment she leaves work where she clearly has the spooky feeling someone is watching/following her, till when she's attacked at her car. It's the worst fear of virtually every woman who's left her job or home while it's dark out.
  • Apathetic Citizens: During the first Chase Scene, not a single car pulls over to the side of the road at the sound of 15 police cars chasing a suspect. The passerby on the sidewalks look over at the cars with mild interest, but no one stops in their tracks or takes cover. Even a guy pushing a baby carriage along the cliff side only glances over at the chase, seemingly with no concern for the child.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Played straight by the Big Bad as Tom is chased to his boat, but averted to the point of being ridiculous earlier in the film when Tom runs out of ammo while on his police boat so he uses the emergency Flare Gun.
  • Call-Back: As Tom and his father chat, his father asks, "What happened to that nurse you were seeing?" Tom replies that "it didn't work out." This is the same nurse murdered later in the film.
  • Calling Card: The killer playing "Little Red Riding Hood" over the phone.
  • Cat Scare: Tom is looking at a map, reviewing the locations where bodies were dumped, when his cat wanders in and walks over the map. He's annoyed. . . until he sees the bloody footprints the cat has left. He follows the trail outside, where he finds the the body of his coworker/friend Kim Lee. Paired with Break-In Threat when you realize that the killer was that close and could have easily harmed him as well.
  • Catch-Phrase: "Let me rephrase that" and "Who's the best cop?"
  • Clear My Name: Tommy's obsession with both sets of serial murders—and the fact that he had a relationship with all of the victims in the current set—leads him to become a suspect.
  • Cool House: Tom lives on a houseboat, not far up the Allegheny River from the city.
  • Dirty Cop: Jimmy. Between his police brutality by day and his work as a Serial Killer by night. Nick too, given that he killed Tommy's father (albeit, by accident) and allowed an innocent man to be arrested for the first set of murders that he knew his son was responsible for and tried to frame ANOTHER innocent man for the second set
  • Disposable Woman: Poor Paula and Kim Lee don't seem to serve any purpose other than to cause Tom even more angst and make the second set of murders personal for him.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Tom, as he infiltrates a boat that's been hijacked. As he accosts one of the men and asks him how many others are there, the man refuses to answer. Tom says "let me rephrase that", then cocks the shotgun he's holding.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Tom joins up with the chase by going the wrong way down Bigelow Boulevard.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: A pickup truck slams into an overturned police car. Boom. A Flare Gun is fired at a fleeing suspect's car. Boom.
  • Fair Cop: Jo. Kim Lee, too, even though she's more of a dispatcher rather than a cop.
  • Frameup: The man arrested and convicted for the first set of murders, based on one person's false claim of seeing him dispose of a body. Then, the second set of murders consists of women whom Tommy had previously had a relationship with. This, coupled with his obsession with the earlier case, eventually makes him the prime suspect. Though Jimmy's primary intention seems to be taunting Tommy by killing the women he once loved and the frameup was just an added bonus. His final murder of his friend/coworker Kim Lee seems to be the only one intentionally meant to set him up—the body is dumped right outside his house, along with the murder weapon
  • Fruit Cart: The police run into a truck loaded with very poorly secured (and obviously empty), cases of Iron City Beer.
  • Hospital Hottie: Nurse Paula, for the brief moments we see her before she's abducted.
  • Internal Affairs: Jo turns out to be an undercover IA sent to investigate Tom, but winds up testifying on his behalf instead.
  • Ironic Echo: Jimmy Detillo says this to Nick Detillo after killing him when it's revealed that Jimmy is wearing a bulletproof vest:
    Jimmy Detillo: Who's the best cop now, huh? Who's the best cop now?
    • And said again by Tom Hardy before shocking him in the mouth with his tazer gun in the river:
    Tom Hardy: Who's the best cop now?
  • It's Personal: The second set of murder victims are women Tom once loved, culminating in that of his good friend Kim Lee.
  • Jump Scare: Played twice as Jo returns to her apartment after a crappy day. First, she's startled by the sound of her ringing phone as she starts to open her closet door. As she turns to answer it, the still-unseen killer barges out of her closet to attack her.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Hardy
  • Lemming Cops: Man, these cops just won't give up in the chase in the beginning of the movie, even at horrible damage to their cars, and driving off a hill!
  • Made of Explodium: When a TV and VCR are pushed into a wall on a cart, they explode and spark.
    • As well as the cop car that blows up when hit by another.
  • Made of Indestructium: The bad guy has his car shot up by the A-Team Firing listed above, then it drives off a ten-foot ledge and lands in a parking lot. Then it drives away, continuing the chase.
  • Manly Tears: Tom after Jimmy jumps from the bridge and after he finds Kim Lee's body.
  • Meaningful Name: The judge is named "Helen Kramer", which is very close to "Helen Keller". Justice is blind, you know.
  • Murderer P.O.V.: Several as the killer plays cat-and-mouse with the cops, as he stalks a victim, and an especially creepy one as he watches Tom and Jo make love.
  • Nepotism: Tom and his father are 5th and 4th generation cops. Toms uncle and cousins are all on the force. They all hold some rank, too. One of them is "the best cop", too
  • Never Found the Body: Cop Jimmy Detillo commits suicide by jumping off a bridge into a river, just like his mother did. His body is never found. However unlike his mother, he survives and lays low for a few years.
  • Newscaster Cameo: Ken Rice and Sally Wiggin continued to broadcast in the Pittsburgh area for over 20 years.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Dennis Farina with his pronounced Chicago accent and Bruce Willis, Tom Sizemore and Robert Pastorelli with their equally obvious New York City accents. Problem was, they are playing characters who were born and raised in Pittsburgh.
  • Noodle Implements: The remote control police car is used every time by the Polish Hill Strangler each time strikes - but the only people who ever know this are the Strangler, the victim and the audience. Why play with a remote control car before leaving your calling card? What's the point?
  • Officer O'Hara: Tom and his father are Irish.
  • Police Are Useless: Tom feels this way because he doesn't know who he can trust with his suspicions. As it turns out, he's absolutely right. To his credit, at least one of the officers apologizes when he realizes his mistake.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: When Jimmy jumps off the bridge, you can tell that something is 'off' when he laughs in a childlike way. Even more so when he tries to kill everyone, gleefully treating it like a game, as well as boasting that he was the best cop, and that Tom could never beat him, and has an enormous impulse problem, and plays with a toy police car, even during his murders.
  • Railroad Tracks of Doom:
  • Red Herring: Danny, who had just gotten back from California when the killings began again anew. There's also the moment Tom finds a body outside his home. He's devastated, thinking that it's Jo. . .and just as devastated to discover it's his co-worker and friend Kim Lee. It's quite shocking for the audience as well—it's Jo who we saw being attacked just a few minutes earlier, and unlike the other murdered women, Kim Lee was merely a friend, not lover.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: Jo pulls on what is presumably Tom's shirt (it's much too big for her) after spending the night at his place.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Tom continues to investigate the Polish Hill Strangler, despite no longer working in Homicide. This includes stealing files from Homicide.
  • Stop, or I Will Shoot!: Tom and Jo see what they think is a wrapped body being thrown into the water. They immediately pursue the suspect, ignoring the obvious question of whether the possible body in the package thrown in the river may still be alive, and fire upon the suspect with a shotgun and a FlareGun just because he isn't stopping when asked.
  • Straw Loser: Tom's original partner in river patrol, who exists only to fall off the back of boats. He doesn't do much to deserve it, he's just there for it.
  • Stunt Double: The man "jumping" Tom's boat off the dam is rather obviously not Bruce Willis.
  • Television Geography:
    • To locals, the chase scene route at the beginning kind of makes sense, sorta. The tunnels they go through are about a mile and a half from the route they take through downtown, and they drive along notoriously time-consuming routes.
    • Also the Establishing Shot of the courthouse isn't in Pittsburgh at all, it's the New York State Supreme Court.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Used twice, in a flashback and the standoff in the cabin.